vision-2025Vision2025 is a community and economic development program focused on creating urban resiliency within three focus areas. Its overarching goal is to build Johnstown into a vibrant and resilient community by attracting economic, social, and environmental investment. The program has broad support from Johnstown’s business community, nonprofit sector, community groups, public, and government agencies. Vision2025 was launched in fall 2015. To date, over 1,000 participants are actively engaged in a variety of grassroots development projects. Several millions of dollars of cash and in-kind investment has been attributed to the success of Vision2025. This type of region-wide development program has never been tried before in Johnstown.

Professional project consultants oversee both the Vision community development framework and project management for several regional initiatives. One of these efforts is to plan for expanded street tree, greenspace, and waterways presence within the city. Johnstown has experienced extensive disinvestment in its community forest and environmental assets for decades, and by 2017 a new science, architecture, and art for urban sustainability has evolved which are guiding new efforts in the city.

Approximately 10 volunteer “capture teams” are in place on projects to expand trail planning efforts, enhance community gardens and parks, and make connections to Johnstown’s riverways.

One key project of Vision2025 is to develop and implement a Master Tree Plan for Johnstown, which it has never had. This effort represents a highly collaborative approach, with input from the city’s Shade Tree Commission and Planning Commission, local foundations and nonprofits, neighborhood groups, and volunteer capture teams. A healthy urban tree canopy provides many environmental, economic, health, social, energy, and aesthetic benefits to communities including cleaner air, stormwater runoff control, opportunities for community engagement, increased business in shopping districts and higher residential property values.

In 2016 Pittsburgh-based Western Pennsylvania Conservancy was awarded a contract to develop the city’s Master Tree Plan, which will guide greenspace efforts for years. Funded by a grant from the Community Foundation of the Alleghenies, Conservancy arborists spent this summer exploring the city, mapping all existing street trees, and developing recommendations for additional tree plantings and environmental improvements. By fall, the Conservancy will turn over its Master Tree Plan to the city’s Shade Tree Commission and implement the first of several planned tree projects. Community Foresters will lead community members in planting 25 new shade trees throughout the city within designed “Tree Corridors.” Volunteers will be trained as Tree Tenders, learning how to maintain the trees within their neighborhoods.

“I don’t want one more tree to go into the ground unless we know there’s community and care invested in it,” said Jeff Bergman, Director of Community Forestry at Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Bergman said the Conservancy will seek advice from the community and from Johnstown’s Shade Tree Commission on where each tree should be planted.

Ryan Kieta, a Johnstown-based landscape architect and urban planner, is Principal of Real Design Inc., a land planning and development consulting firm. Through Real Design Kieta provides project management and community development services to Johnstown Area Regional Industries for the Vision2025 initiative.